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Op/Ed

ListingDoor model and assertions are not only offensive to Realtors, but wildly inaccurate

ListingDoor, built by a veteran Realtor says they save buyers from paying broker’s commissions, which they call a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” What?!

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A statement circulated today by ListingDoor.com proves the old truism that “All real estate is local” and rides the new wave of websites promising to help homeowners sell their homes better, faster, cheaper, all by themselves. They’re calling themselves the “Uber” of real estate. Interesting…

Last June, I wrote here about OpenDoor.com’s $9 million launch that promised an oh-so-similar result (“Sold. The Minute You’re Ready,” the site brags). A quick check today shows a whopping 45 move-in-ready homes listed on their site for sale, all in the Phoenix, Airzona area. I tried entering various zip codes and addresses from across the country, as if I was a homeowner trying to use their service, with no luck. I’m not worried that homeowners in 95 percent of the United States will be trying this any time soon.

“Veteran Realtor” launches startup with recycled model

Today the launch is ListingDoor.com – similar name, similar vision, and even more hyperbole in their promotional materials.

Let’s start with the first sentence of their press release: “In response to the thriving FSBO market, veteran real estate broker and author Sissy Lappin launches ListingDoor.com, providing profitable and powerful marketing tools for homeowners, giving them everything they need to successfully sell their home on their own.” While some parts of the country are experiencing inventory shortages and perhaps FSBO’s have an easier time than in the recent past, this is by no means a nationwide phenomenon. I am not sure where she is seeing a “thriving FSBO market” but it is not everwhere.

Lappin states that “today homeowners are privy to all the same market information as real estate agents, allowing homeowners to efficiently determine the value of their home.” Really, as Zillow has proven? Because the “Zestimate” is never wrong?

The site states that a homeowner plugs in basic data and they will churn out a market report and advise in pricing. AVMs (automated valuation models) are better than they used to be, true. But in many parts of the country, especially rural areas without lots of data points, the valuations are more often skewed (extremely high or low) than they are correct.

Why would a broker say AVMs are superior to CMAs?

I find it interesting that Lappin, a real estate broker, would tout that an online computer modeled valuation would be more accurate than a skilled agent in pricing a home.

Take for example the “best house in the neighborhood.” You have a high-end home that has numerous upgrades and amenities unseen from the street and are not reflected on a tax parcel card. This luxury home sits in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood where homes are of builder-grade, no upgrades, and less square footage. Do you think that this home will be priced more accurately by a computer model or by a in-the-flesh neighborhood expert?

These business models imply agents are just door openers

What all of these sites discount or take for granted is that agents do much more than hand you a CMA and suggest a price. They are more than door openers and open-house-sitters.

A good agent does his/her job well and gets the house sold for the highest price possible in the least amount of time on market (if that is the seller’s goal). A great agent counsels and advises, listens to the seller’s needs and take all of this into account as they guide the seller through the maze of a process.

I take offense to ListingDoor.com’s statements

While I am obviously not a fan of any site that proposes to “cut the middle man” (the agent) out of the transaction as if we hold no value, I take offense to this site’s twisting of statistics and figures to pull at a viewer’s gut.

ListingDoor proposes that a broker’s commission is a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” So a commission is not a “fee” – it is the broker stealing up to half the seller’s home equity. Wow. Talk about sensationalism.

Market online, but not the MLS… what?

In addition to their offering a market analysis (which is actually NOT market analysis, as no human is analyzing the facts and figures and analyzing anything, it is a computer generated crap shoot), the site states that they promote the house online and in social media marketing – but do not use the MLS.

While I agree social media marketing is crucial in selling homes these days, the MLS is still alive and kicking (and the standard source of syndication to all of the real estate portals). You can advertise on social media, but many active homebuyers will contact their own buyer’s agent in order to then make that appointment.

Avoiding the MLS cuts out any buyer’s agents who may not be aware of your home, as well as those who choose not to show FSBO’s as part of their business model (we won’t go into the ethics of this here, as that is another column completely).

“Avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent,” the site says

To drive the point home one more time, ListingDoor states that they teach you “step-by-step the right way to sell your home and avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent.”

Wow. What an amazing statement. This site’s entire marketing push seems to be that real estate agents are the enemy to avoid. We steal your home’s equity and somehow make it harder and more dangerous to sell with us than without us.

The bottom line: ListingDoor ignores the agent’s value

Cutting out the “middleman” may work in some markets, for some sellers who have expertise and knowledge in handling negotiations and transactions – but it’s not for everyone. Buying and selling a home may be the biggest financial transaction someone may make. This isn’t filing your 1040EZ form through Turbo Tax.

I personally wouldn’t want to represent a seller who feels I bring no value to the table, and that my knowledge and skills can be replaced by a computer model. The first hurdle in the sale is finding a buyer. After that is when an agent’s true value is realized, as we keep the deal together and delicately negotiated through the weeks and perhaps months required to close a loan these days.

Our value is not just in pricing a home and filling in the blanks in a contract. When the deal threatens to fall apart, that’s when “salespeople” disappear and “experts” emerge.

#ListingDoor

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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Op/Ed

How anyone can be more a more assertive real estate pro

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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Op/Ed

Why an “Enough List” is the answer to your never ending to-do list

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It’s 12:17 a.m. I’m laying in the dark basking in the glow of my laptop, next to my sleeping sons, as I go back and forth between the clock and my to-do list, then back to the clock, then over to my children’s faces.

At this moment I imagine I feel similar to many other entrepreneurs, small business owners, and work from home parents. The day is done, it’s after midnight, but you’ve barely made a dent on all the things that need to get done.

In the morning the day seems wide open, the world your oyster, and the list of obligations not quite intimidating, yet. It all seems manageable, in the morning. But all it takes is a hiccup to consume a couple of unexpected hours of your morning to throw off your entire day. A technology failure, an unhappy customer, an unexpected task, all of these can wreck a well-made plan. And even without these mishaps, regular distraction, email, a headache, or simply, writer’s block can disrupt one’s business processes as a whole.

So, what’s the solution? I’m already working 100 hours a week, maybe another 10 or 15 will make it all fall into place? No, instead it’s the opposite. Know when to turn it off . Enough is…quite literally…enough.

When I read Melissa Camara Wilkins’ article about having an “enough list,” I dropped my laptop, slow clapped for about five minutes, then found a lighter and swayed back and forth until I realized I had a deadline I needed to meet. Wilkins talks about how she makes a short list – of three things exactly – that will be the focus of her day.

They are not specific tasks, she states, but may be as general as “make that phone call I’ve been avoiding” or “write an article” or “send that email”, but she only makes three, simple, goals a day.

Wow. What a fantastic idea. I began to plan my day around this philosophy and then I woke up. Because, let’s be honest, I’ve got some serious stuff to get done. This idea sounds great on the surface but come on.

Who can seriously only focus on the examples provided in the article? Especially for someone running a small business or acting in a leadership position, the number of phone calls or emails that need follow ups, issues that need resolution, meetings that need your attention, and articles that need to be written are ongoing.

That being said, the takeaway from the article is good – know when to turn it off. Since for me (like many of you) my to-do list never gets completed, instead it gets whittled down to “nearly manageable” but often escalates to “all hell breaking loose,” I was looking for a solution to keep my days as stress free as possible.

So I used Wilkins’ idea as inspiration and I started my “enough list”.

I realized there was no getting away from my to-do list because, honestly, I need it to stay sane and know what expectations and deadlines are the most pressing. But now I also have an “enough list” that allows me to turn it off for the day.

This list designates when it’s ok for me to shut the lid of my laptop and put away my phone. Different from Wilkins, though, instead of putting tasks on my enough list, I put milestones.

I make goals for each day. My to-do list may be a mile long but for Thursday, I’m going to be satisfied with attending my two morning meetings, writing three articles, and responding to four key emails that I put off the day before. And at 6:30 I’ll turn off my laptop, put away my phone, have dinner with my family, talk to my children when they are in the tub, enjoy an episode of Breaking Bad with my husband after the kids go to sleep…and if I feel like it, because who am I kidding, check my email after that.

An enough list isn’t about putting a cap on your day; it’s more about prioritizing your time to make sure your to-do list doesn’t eat you alive. At least not today.

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